In a week when Specialized and Scott rolled out new aero super bikes with copious amounts of next-gen integration and eye-catching wind tunnel data, Giant pedaled a more traditional path, unveiling the latest version of its popular TCR all-around road race bike at a two-day press event on the Spanish island of Mallorca.
“This is not an aero bike, it’s not a sprinter’s bike, this is a GC bike,” explained the company’s senior global product marketing manager Andrew Juskaitis, of a bike that was in part developed and tested by riders of the Team Giant-Alpecin WorldTour squad, and whose model line-up will include the TCR Advanced SL, TCR Advanced Pro and TCR Advanced, all of them full carbon frames. “This bike can climb, it can sprint, it can descend. It’s designed to do it all.”
At first blush, the Model Year 2016 version of the TCR doesn’t look a whole lot different than the previous version. It only comes in rim brake versions, and there are no truly radical design changes. But peer a little closer and you see what Giant’s designers and engineers have been up to. Every tube except the downtube and bottom bracket got a shave. This, says Giant, resulted in a frameset that’s 12 percent (or 181 grams) lighter than its predecessor.
The changes are most pronounced in the top tube and seatstays, which are downright skinny. But Giant says not to worry about overall frame stiffness. Utilizing its ability to control processes from start to finish (they are the world’s largest bike maker after all), they claim to have refined their carbon fiber lay-up schedule and tightened tolerances so that weight was trimmed without sacrificing stiffness.
This was achieved in part by ditching the sharp lines of the former TCR in favor of more rounded edges. This, says Giant senior industrial design engineer Erik Klemm, eliminated reservoirs for excess material to pool, and thus reduced weight.
Giant also revised the fork, creating a smoother transition with the frame, and moving the lower bearing up 2.5mm to combat twisting force by lining it up with the downtube. The fork is also skinnier and lighter by a claimed 30 grams.
This weight loss without stiffness loss was backed up by test data (conducted by Giant without independent oversight) that claimed to show the top-end TCR Advanced SL frame has the best pedaling stiffness-to-weight ratio among a group of similar bikes that included the Cervélo R5, Specialized Tarmac S-Works, Cannondale SuperSix EVO Black, Trek Émonda SLR and Scott Addict SL.
Giant says its pedaling stiffness test measured deflection at the bottom bracket under force, then factored in weight to get a series of ranking numbers that put the new top-end TCR road bike 10 percent above second-place finishing Cervélo, with Specialized third, 12 percent behind.
Giant also says it performed general frameset stiffness testing, where rear dropouts were locked in place and lateral force was applied to the fork. Again the new TCR came out on top, with Cervélo and Specialized both 7 percent behind.
Giant also provided comparative weight data for size mediums of all the aforementioned bikes, using a formula that included frame, fork, seatpost (or integrated seatpost), clamps, hangers and all other production hardware. Here the new TCR came in fourth at 1376 grams, with the Émonda SLR (1278g), Addict SL (1282g) and SuperSix EVO Black (1326g) occupying this first three spots.
It’s also worth noting that while the Specialized Tarmac S-Works was the heaviest of the tested frames at 1686 grams, it topped both the frameset pedaling stiffness test and frameset+wheelset pedaling stiffness test.
It’s always tough to know what to think of this kind of data. We weren’t there to bear witness, so we can do nothing more than take Giant at their word and pass it on to you. But suffice to say in real world conditions, the new TCR is one seriously stiff and reasonably light bike, which we’ll address in our first ride impressions on page 3 of this post.
Giant also revised the bike’s seatpost shape, making the walls thinner and the shape more ovalized than previous versions. “It gives us what we feel is an ideal balance between a race tuned feel and comfort-enhancing compliance,” explained Klemm. “It has a continuous curvature, which in part helped us shave 30 grams on the post itself.”
Giant uses that revised shaping on the Advanced SL and Advanced Pro bike, but only the top-end rigs get the weight-saving Variant Integrated Seatpost, which requires the rider to cut the frame based on saddle height. Once that cut is made, there remains 30mm of possible up-and-down adjustment.
Additional frame highlights include hollow rear carbon dropouts, which save weight and improve cable trajectory, and removable bosses that are designed to ease internal cable routing and periodic maintenance.
The new bike also continues to utilize Giant’s Overdrive 2 headset, which uses a 1.25″ upper headset race that improves front-end stiffness, but limits stem choice. Interestingly Giant recently ditched this standard on its mountain bikes, but Juskaitis says the company still believes it’s the best solution for road bikes and is sticking with it. Head to page 2 for a breakdown of the line-up and click over to page 3 to read our first ride impressions and see an extended photo gallery.